For years, the ladies in my family have been gifted mostly handmade gifts for Christmas. Because, let’s be honest, it’s a whole lot easier to sew for someone who also likes modern quilts, handbags, and zippered pouches for all your colorful markers. It’s just easy.

But men? Gah. What do you make for men? For men who are practical, and have little need for things like skinny ties or tailored shirts. Well, you make them dopp kits. Because these men travel occasionally and shave daily. And, yes, technically it is a zippered pouch. Just a more masculine one.

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When I returned back in the US a few weeks ago, I was determined to get all of my Christmas presents made within one week. (Not entirely realistic, I confess, as my family has recently grown from five to eight people.) And I decided to start with the boys. I had been eyeing the Portside Travel Set from Grainline Patterns for quite some time, so I decided to take the plunge and purchase the digital pattern. It was printed, taped, and cutout within an hour. Thank goodness for the instant gratification of digital patterns.
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I was determined to use up some of my growing fabric stash on this project. I purchased eleven yards of a natural cotton canvas this summer with plans to block print and upholster the cushions for my vintage travel trailer. The upholstery never was completed, and I was up against a deadline with these dopp kits. So…I made do. And the cotton canvas worked great! This fabric is burly, and needed no interfacing like the pattern called for.

My good friend Michael, gifted me about ten of his father’s vintage suits last spring. And I knew they’d be the perfect contrasting material for a masculine dopp kit. The only items I needed to buy were the zippers. Contrasting zippers for the win!

The result? Totally unintentional, but Very Topo Designs-esque. And I couldn’t be more happy.

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Source: http://topodesigns.com

Topo Designs is a Denver company that makes backpacks, outerwear and accessories right here in Colorado in an amazing color palette. Red, blues, oranges, and often with a plethora of contrasting zippers. I’ve been eyeing one of their packs for awhile…and I’m patiently awaiting the day that they make coats for women. They just opened a physical storefront in Denver, so if you live in the area, check it out! I have no affiliation with the company, I seriously just can’t stop raving about them.

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The details like the fully lined interior and the outside zipper pocket are just adorable. And surprisingly easy. By the time I was sewing the third one, the pattern took me only 2 to 3 hours to finish. That’s a pretty quick project in my book for a pattern with so many pieces.

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I did tweak the pattern slightly by resizing some of the pattern pieces. And, next time I would add some tabs on either side of the zipper so it’s easier to zip and unzip. But overall, this project provided great experience in learning how travel pieces are constructed.
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So 2013 will be the first Christmas where the men in this family will be gifted handmade and the women won’t. The rest of those presents never were completed. There’s always next year.

Also! I want to send out a big heartfelt thank you to those of you who have participated in our market research interviews! We so appreciate all of your honest feedback. It’s not too late to participate if you’re still interested, and we’re happy to schedule the interviews after the New Year to accommodate busy schedules. The only requirement for these interviews? You must be a user of digital (pdf) sewing patterns. Sign up below!

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Hello folks! I love a good pdf sewing pattern, you know this. And so many independent designers are jumping on the pattern bandwagon and publishing some seriously awesome stuff! But the digital sewing world has become disjointed. Thousands of us are blogging, sharing photos on Flickr and pinning the heck out of patterns we have put our own creative spin on. We’re all out there, but we’re not connected beyond platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. We need to bring it together.

So, we’d love your help! If you are an avid user of digital sewing patterns from pattern makers like Grainline, Wiksten, Victory and April Rhodes, we’d love your feedback! I mean, we really, really, really want to talk to you.

What’s in it for you? Well, by providing us with your invaluable feedback, we’ll bring you into the proverbial “fold” from the get-go. You’ll get the inside scoop on our idea and become a group of first users to test the heck out of it. That means you can influence the design, functionality, and even the features of the biggest development in the online sewing community yet! Sound interesting? Sign up below.

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So yes, you last heard from me exactly 109 days ago. It’s true. I would say that’s utterly pitiful, but I’m working on this thing called positive self-talk. I’m working on accepting everything exactly the way things are. And well? Right now, it’s apparent that my blog has been neglected. It’s just the way it is.

But you know what? I have SO much to tell you all. I have almost two months worth of travel stories to share with you. I have sewing projects. I have hopes and dreams and business plans that I’m literally bursting at the seams to tell you. I’ve spent 109 days really living. Like, really living. And I want to tell you all about it. But first I want to tell you about this.

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As you know from my late summer about-face, I was in need of some big life changes. I was in one of those inevitable weird, restless, overall-I-feel-like-crap places. We’ve all been there. So it makes sense that my best friend and I decided on a whim to take a not-so-little trip. We packed our bags, abandoned adult life responsibilities, and spent almost two months in the Southern Hemisphere; specifically Fiji, New Zealand and Australia. And the impetus for this trip was a screen printing workshop that I had been eyeing for years. Seriously, years.

If you haven’t heard of Harvest Workroom, you’ve been missing out on endless drooling over their awesome textile designs. You’ve really been depriving yourself of some serious, good ‘ol American material wanting. Good on ‘ya.harvest-workroomHarvest Workroom had just relocated when I took the Design and Screen Print Your Own Fabric workshop in early November. The teaching space was a giant warehouse in the Brunswick district of Melbourne. The natural light, white walls and concrete floors made it difficult for me to refrain from asking if I could set up a small studio here. I wanted to live in a corner of that warehouse and for a few minutes, I was seriously contemplating how I could make that happen.
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Our instructor Sophie was incredibly adorable and kind. Like all Aussies, she would check in on each of us by asking, “How ya going?” I just loved that. She was a textile designer with a real talent for teaching total screen printing newbies. She led us through the process of printing using acetate stencils. I’ll be honest, at first I was a little disappointed we wouldn’t be burning our own screens. Then I realized how much easier and faster this method was. With the exact same results. I will forever be sold on screen printing with stencils.

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We printed several prints on our first day, testing out transparent inks and design motifs. I was literally in heaven. I wish I could take classes like this on the regular, because it is 100% my happy place. Harvest has the most amazing, waist high, 10 meter printing table (that’s, like, 30 some odd feet) where all ten of us could print simultaneously! It was every designer’s dream. We worked in groups of three to help hold each other’s screens and dry our prints with hair dryers.

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The second day, Sophie taught us to design a Swiss repeat. I have seen several tutorials around the interwebs on Swiss repeats and have always steered clear of them for fear they were just too complicated for someone like me. Someone who doesn’t like to read instructions or really take their time with things. No Swiss repeats for me, no thank you.

Then I realized that it’s seriously the easiest way to create a repeat. Like…easier than Photoshop. Easier then eyeballing it and totally hating the outcome. And I’m pleased as punch at my result.harvest-workroom-swiss-repeatIf you find yourself in the sun-burned country down under, and you have a few days to kill in Melbourne, you’d be doing yourself a disfavor if you didn’t check out Harvest Textiles/Workroom. I mean it. Every person in my class was a printing newbie, and the stuff they were churning out was seriously awesome.

I’m sure I’ll be back to the blog soon with more content. Maybe I’ll share some travel stories. Maybe I’ll show you a few sewing projects I just finished. I might even divulge my latest entrepreneurial obsession.

But most importantly, I want to thank all of you folk who have been checking in on me, waiting patiently for my next post. And all of you who have come over from Pinterest. Welcome!